Background: Fms-like tyrosine kinase-3 ligand (Flt3L) is a hemopoietic cytokine and dendritic cell (DC) growth factor that promotes the proliferation and differentiation of progenitor cells into DCs. We have previously found that treatment of severely burned mice with recombinant Flt3L significantly enhances DC production and bacterial clearance from infected burn wounds, and increases global immune cell activation and survival in response to a burn wound infection. These significant benefits of Flt3L treatment after burn injury have prompted the question of whether or not severe burn injury induces deficits in endogenous Flt3L levels that could affect DCs and subsequent responses to infection. Results: To address this, male BALB/c mice received a 30% total body surface area scald burn. Blood, spleens, and wound-draining lymph nodes were harvested at various time-points after injury. Some mice received a wound inoculation with P. aeruginosa. Murine Flt3L and G-CSF levels were measured by ELISA. Burn injury had no significant effect on Flt3L levels at any post-burn time-point examined compared to normal Flt3L levels in the sera, spleen, or lymph nodes. Additionally, Flt3L levels in the sera, spleen, and lymph nodes were not significantly altered when wounds were inoculated on the day of burn injury or at post-burn time points examined. Alternatively, levels of G-CSF were increased in response to burn injury and burn wound infection. Additionally, DC numbers and functions were not altered following burn injury alone. There was no significant difference between the number of DCs in the spleens of sham-injured mice and mice at 5 days after burn injury. When naïve T cells from sham-injured mice were co-cultured with DCs from either sham- or burn-injured mice, IFN-γ production was similar, however, IFN-γ levels produced by T cells harvested from burn-injured mice were significantly lower than those produced by T cells from sham mice, regardless of which DC group, sham or burn, was used in the coculture. Conclusion: These data suggest that the beneficial effects of Flt3L treatments after burn injury are not due to correction of a burn-associated Flt3L deficiency but rather, are likely due to supplementary stimulation of DC production and immune responses to infection.
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